by Steven Ertelt
September 24, 2007
Jefferson City, MO (LifeNews.com) — A case regarding whether Missouri taxpayers must be forced to pay for jails to take inmates for elective abortions will soon be heard at a federal appeals court today. The state appealed a judge’s decision last year forcing it to transport pregnant prisoners to get abortions.
The judge ruled that not only can pregnant inmates get abortions, but the state must use taxpayer-funded transportation to get them to the abortion center.
Attorney General Jay Nixon, who backs abortion, filed an appeal of U.S. District Judge Dean Whipple’s decision.
He said the policy against transporting inmates for abortions was based on a 1986 state law prohibiting the use of state-funded facilities or employees in assisting abortions unless it’s needed to save the pregnant woman’s life.
A three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis will hold a hearing today on the appeal.
Whipple rejected Nixon’s argument in his July 2006 ruling saying "This case simply does not concern state subsidization of abortion services."
In October, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously said Missouri had to allow one unnamed inmate to get an abortion.
Responding to that decision, the pro-abortion American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of all pregnant inmates who may seek an abortion and Judge Whipple ruled in response.
Gov. Matt Blunt opposed the ruling and said he wanted Nixon to file an appeal.
"This ruling violates our traditional Missouri values and is an affront to everyone that values the sanctity of human life," Blunt said in a written statement. "I urge the attorney general to fight this ruling that prevents the state of Missouri from protecting innocent human life."
The Supreme Court ruling came after a decision in July 2005 to stop providing transportation for pregnant women to get abortions. The state cited costs as well as security concerns.
In the case that eventually reached the Supreme Court, Missouri Department of Corrections officials contended that taking the woman to a local St. Louis abortion facility would violate the state law.
ACLU lawyer Tom Blumenthal said that about 35-50 women are pregnant in the Missouri prison system at any given time.
He told AP that two other women had abortions after the ruling last year and another woman was denied an abortion.
Taking prisoners to abortion facilities has been in issue in other states as well.
Last October, an Arizona county sheriff requested a ruling from a state appeals court on whether he can refuse to take inmates for elective abortions because he doesn’t want to involve taxpayer funds in the transportation process.
In September, a woman in a Tennessee jail pending a trial on a charge of possessing and selling drugs was been granted a request to leave prison to have an abortion. Federal District Court Magistrate Bruce Guyton approved the request.
The latest Missouri case is Roe v. Crawford, et al., No. 05-4333-CV-C-DW.